Review: Don Jon
PLOT: DON JON is the story of a Jersey boy who can only connect to the world around him in his own superficial nature. Things begin to change however when he meets two very different and powerful women who shape his life in unexpected ways.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become one of the most intriguing talents working in Hollywood today. He has made a number of impressive choices as an actor from (500) DAYS OF SUMMER to MYSTERIOUS SKIN. As well he has tried to encompass all other areas of artistic achievement without missing a beat. Suffice it to say that it is not all that surprising he would tackle his own feature film. As actor, writer, and director of DON JON, he manages to give a charismatic performance and still work a little magic behind the camera.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a muscle-bound New Jersey boy who loves his family, his friends, his girls and most importantly, he loves his porn. We as the audience are continually reminded of what makes Jon tick witnessing him going through the motions and banging women he meets at bars. Or we see him having a tumultuous dinner with his family, while his mother (played by Glenne Headly) is convinced she will never get to be a grandmother – much to her dismay of course. His family dynamic may come across as a bit stereotypical Jersey, yet it is at times quite hilarious and charming. With his cell phone obsessed sister (Brie Larson) and his overbearing dad (a fantastic Tony Danza) we see a whole lot about Jon thanks to these lively moments.
The two women that cross paths with Jon are Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and Esther (Julianne Moore). One is the blonde bombshell that plays hard to get, the other is a strange woman he meets while taking an evening course – one which Barbara convinces him to take in order to better himself. It is damn near impossible to not be taken in by Johansson’s sex appeal. She is quite good as a woman who wants more for her man – even if that means changing everything about him. As for Moore, she is eccentric and strangely charming. Her “Esther” is a complex character that is in many ways the most intriguing in the film. It is a terrific performance and it’s a shame that she appears so late into it, as I would have liked to have seen much more of her relationship with Jon.
While I applaud the raw and bold subject matter, DON JON is much too repetitive throughout its ninety minute runtime. We see countless shots of Jon going to a church, going to a club, and doing whatever the hell he likes to do. The reasons for it are clear, yet the continuous scenes of his lifestyle begin to feel more than a little redundant. If they had cut these scenes in half the point would still have been made. Once the story finally begins to branch out of his little world is when the film expands on the occasionally stale repetition. This is especially true as DON JON really comes into its own near the final half hour or so.
Aside from the occasionally monotonous nature of the film, Gordon-Levitt gives DON JON a slick and stylish visual flair that is far better than you’d expect for this type of character-driven story. This is a sometimes heartfelt flick that deals with the realities of sex and relations with little bursts of energy. The performances are all quite good, especially Moore, Headly and Danza, and yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well. For a first time feature filmmaker, this is a brave attempt to examine the clichés of a modern romance. As a comedic drama, it is the more serious moments that are the most effective. It is a funny enough film and a good start for the man of many talents, Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt.